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Learning Management System: What is an LMS?

Everything you need to know about Learning Management Systems

Given the digital era that is invading our businesses, have you perhaps thought of embarking on a training digitalisation plan? MOOC, SPOC, COOC, LMS… Digital Learning solutions are of many kinds! It’s difficult to choose when you do not understand them very well.

In this article, we give you all the basics you need to know about the most comprehensive online training solution: LMS.

What is an LMS?

LMS: knowledge basics on video

In a short humorous video in the style of a seasoned YouTuber, Elodie Primo, CEO of MOS — MindOnSite offers you a fine introduction to the “LMS: Learning Management System”.

Initiated or not, you will discover what an LMS is and the real benefit of implementing this solution in your business for the training of your employees and / or contractors.

LMS: definition of the acronym

As Elodie explains in the video, the acronym LMS stands for:

  • Learning for training and learning,
  • Management for the management and organisation of these online training courses, learners, reporting etc.,
  • System to embody the fact that computer software is used.

Thus, LMS is computer software enabling you to manage training.

Learning Management System: who is it aimed at?

Learning Management Systems are used by companies but also by learning institutions such as universities, higher education institutions or training organisations. They are useful for any organisation wishing to prioritise the development of the skills and knowledge of its learners, whoever they are: students, employees, customers, partners, service providers etc.

The LMS enables learning which is flexible, on the move and even fun thanks to the incorporation of gamification principles and social learning. We will return to these concepts a little later in the article.

In business, certain sectors of activity lend themselves more readily to the incorporation of a learning platform because they are more adapted to the target populations addressed:

  • Retail: for training in-house and outside sales forces, often dispersed in shops around the world. Specialising in the sale of fashion items, the KIABI brand is a good example.
  • Media and telecom: for training sales forces and in-house after-sales services but also international partners. Canal+ uses it for training its partner sales forces.
  • Sports and charitable associations: for training volunteers on the functioning of the association, events and their roles within the association/event,
  • Aeronautics: for training pilots and personnel on mobile and tablet in disconnected mode,
  • Health and pharmaceuticals: for training employees and travelling sales representatives,
  • Energy: for training employees but also partner service providers. Services Industrielles de Genève (SIG) have tried it out and significantly increased the number of partners trained,
  • Industry: for training employees and monitoring their improved skills, for example Renault Trucks, which puts skills management at the service of international commercial performance,
  • Banking and insurance: to keep the knowledge of business advisors up to date and be in line with the certifications required by that business sector.

Some ways of using LMS’s in companies

E-learning management systems can have several functions:

How does a Learning Management System work?

Now that you know the main ways of using an LMS in business, let’s see how it works.

LMS platforms usually consist of two parts: front-office and back-office.

The front-office part corresponds to the learning portal, it is the e-learning portal(s). Depending on the theme or his/her[MG1]  profile, [EP2] the learner will be able to find a variety of training content and services such as forums, blogs, badges, planning etc.

The back-office is the space reserved for administrators and authors for managing and creating content, as well as for following up learners.

What are the benefits of an LMS?

LMS platforms provide many benefits, for learners, administrators, managers and trainers.

For learners

  • LMS platforms are ATAWADAC solutions, meaning: Any Time, Anywhere, Any Device, Any Content. Learners can connect whenever they want, from wherever they want, on their preferred device to follow the chosen training,
  • Distance learning also allows a better management of his training schedule because the learner can connect whenever he wants. Training content remains available on the LMS platform,
  • Due to the variety of content that can be integrated, LMS platforms also allow everyone to find the content and learning style that best suits them,
  • The principles of gamification or social learning make it possible to create communities of learners and strengthen the sense of belonging to a group.

For administrators

  • Ease of updating databases: learners and content,
  • All data are grouped in one place,
  • Easy access to reporting on training follow-up, skills management and certifications,
  • Maintenance of the compliance required by the business sector,
  • The ability to publicise training courses and make them more attractive by means of announcements, forums, notifications or emailing campaigns,
  • Time-saving tools to facilitate training management: registration rules, dashboards, waiting lists, notifications and reminders, assessments and communication tools.

For trainers

  • Creating content directly from the LMS platform if it has a content editing module,
  • Animating the communities of learners via forums, blogs or internal messaging,
  • Creating and updating training sessions,
  • Viewing the progress of groups of learners.

For managers

  • Management of teams and viewing the progress of employees,
  • Management of actions related to the registration of employees for training sessions or courses,
  • Management of employees’ skills and badges,
  • Management of the coaching sessions planned with the employees of the team,
  • Viewing upcoming actions related to employee training via notifications.

What are the main features of an LMS?

Depending on the objective of setting up an LMS platform, it is important to ensure that it has the basic features needed for the proper planning of your training strategy. Taking into account the goals and targets of learners, it may be of interest to find other additional features.

Basic features

At the implementation stage of a first online training platform, the main uses are the creation and updating of content and the monitoring of the progress of learners. However, there exist additional features so as to allow different users the best possible grasp and use of the system:

  • Integrated content editor: as explained above, it is important to ensure that the chosen LMS platform incorporates a content creation module so that administrators and trainers can create content and training courses, or for that matter quizzes,
  • Reporting: it is essential to be able to extract data relating to your training content or your learners. This will allow you to assess the performance of your programme and implement remedial actions,
  • Responsiveness: a responsive platform will allow you to give learners the opportunity to train remotely, out of the office, by means of a platform accessible from PCs, tablets or smartphones,
  • Interfacing: integration with your information systems or software already present in your organisation can allow you to make your training device even more efficient and save time on certain tasks,
  • Notifications and ads: marketing your training will allow you to make your training device known to your target audiences through notifications, ads or mailing campaigns,
  • Multi-site management: decentralised management will allow you to create separate spaces or portals according to your learner targets or training themes,
  • Blended Learning: if you want to manage several types of content such as eLearning, face-to-face, coaching or virtual classes in a single platform, it is essential to ensure that the platform manages Blended Learning, that is to say both synchronous (face-to-face, virtual classes, coaching) and asynchronous (eLearning, presentations, quizzes, videos, podcasts, serious games etc.) types of learning.
  • Multi-lingual availability: so that your target learners have access to content in their native or preferred language.

Additional features

  • Personalisation of the platform: to strengthen your brand image and have a more attractive appearance for your different learner targets, the white label or personalised portal option is essential. Customisation can be done at several levels: graphical and/or functional.
  • Mobile Learning friendly: thanks to a mobile app, learners will have access to their training from their smartphones or tablets, in connected and even disconnected mode in some cases,
  • Certification: a specialised module will allow you to manage certificates and authorisations in bulk, as well as their automatic renewal and the sending of personalised certificates,
  • Social Learning: to animate the community of learners through blogs, forums, messaging or new features such as UGC  (User Generated Content),
  • Gamification: gaming levers in the service of distance learning often have challenging and motivating effects on learners. This can involve obtaining badges or points, ranking “top learners” or duels between learners,
  • eCommerce: to sell your training courses directly from your online training platform,
  • Skills management: to incorporate a toolkit and link it with training.

Guide: How to choose your LMS platform within your organisation?

First of all, it is important to know that there are two types of LMS platforms: open source platforms and proprietary software.

Open source LMS

An Open Source LMS is a program created by a community of contributors. It is made available to all free of charge. For example, Moodle is an open-source platform and one of the best known.

Open Source LMS’s are generally used as part of the online release of MOOCs. MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are training programs open to large numbers and broadcast on the Internet.

Open-source LMS’s are historically used by universities and schools of higher education. They have only recently been taken up by training organisations and later on by companies.

By choosing this type of LMS, the company accesses the source code of the platform and the parameter according to its need and use. Thus, it is important to ensure that you have one or more qualified people in-house to perform all the essential technical tasks:

  • installing on the server,
  • configuring the LMS platform,
  • adapting the tool to the needs of the organisation,
  • maintenance.

An Open Source LMS is usually free; however, in more and more cases, to be able to access additional features or support, some third-party options must be paid for. In addition, implementation services, configuration and training must be factored in, as the cost of these is far from negligible.[EP3] [MG4]

Proprietary LMS

A proprietary LMS is software developed by a private company, also called a publisher. A proprietary LMS differs from an Open Source LMS in two main respects:

Turnkey digital training solution:

  • The organisation that benefits from a proprietary LMS does not have to take care of the settings and other IT configurations necessary for installation and online,
  • Users are generally supported in the handling of the tool and no prior technical knowledge is required,
  • The publisher takes care of the maintenance of the tool.

A proprietary LMS is subject to a fee.

  • There are different pricing models that we will see a little further down. It can be a pricing per learner, per number of registrations for a training course, or by consumption,
  • That is to say, the cost includes the maintenance and updates of the platform. This is a major difference from an Open Source LMS, since a proprietary software will evolve regularly, and the new features are made available free of charge following these evolutions,
  • The provision of new features and the training of teams are supported by the publisher.

What’s next?

Beyond these elements, and before you start choosing your new LMS platform, several criteria seem important to us:

  • Make an audit of the existing system at the organisational, functional and technical level,
  • Think about the users’ experiences (learners, managers, trainers, administrators) that you want to offer,
  • Set your wish list. This will allow you to structure your project, define your context and problem and determine the objectives and expected results,
  • List what features are key, important or indeed non-negotiable for you,
  • Ask for demonstrations from publishers who seem to meet your needs. This step is important, not only to learn more about the solution but also to have a first contact with the team of the publisher in question,
  • Also inquire about the publisher’s references and request customer case studies.

How much does an LMS cost?

As seen above, an open source LMS will often be made available for free, however this incurs other costs because the organisation will have to hire a person to take care of putting it online and maintaining it. Regarding proprietary LMS’s, there are two types of provision that will already impact the cost of provision.

On-site LMS

An on-site LMS, i.e. one hosted locally, is stored on the organisation’s local server. The latter is then responsible for everything related to the proper functioning of the LMS (data storage, confidentiality, development system, maintenance, etc.). This model, more “old-school,” has a higher purchase cost because you buy the right to own and use the software as well as the licences for your organisation.

SaaS LMS

A software as a service (SaaS) LMS is cloud-based and means that the LMS will be hosted on an internet server and not a local server (e.g. a computer’s hard drive). The publisher of the LMS will be held responsible for the proper functioning of the software, the storage of the data and the overall management of the LMS.

In SaaS mode, several pricing options are generally offered:

  • Per registered user: “Fixed price” model for a controlled budget.
  • Per active user / learner: Price for consumption in line with actual use,
  • Per guest: Per package, to market and strengthen the attractiveness of your offer. (Complementary model adapted to the training of outside populations).

The different types of software available on the market

We have presented you the basics which you need to know about the LMS, its operation and its use. In the jungle of different acronyms, you must be wondering what is the difference between it and other software. We will help you to see this more clearly.

LMS or CMS?

A CMS is a Content Management System. CMS’s are therefore software packages for content management or are widely used in the context of website creation. WordPress WordPress, Drupal, Wix or Shopify are CMS’s.

A CMS is a fairly passive distribution platform on which content is uploaded and accessed.

By contrast, an LMS will be a more active platform, by means of which learners can interact, answer quizzes or send messages. Administrators, trainers and managers will also be able to follow the progress of learners, which is not possible with a CMS.

We should also mention LCMS: Learning Content Management System, a combination of LMS and CMS, for complete management of training and content. Indeed, the C for Content means that all your educational resources (files, texts, images, videos, audio, quizzes, assessments) forming part of your online training courses can be created or incorporated directly from your LCMS software. An LMS with a content editor is actually an LCMS.

LMS or HRIS?

An HRIS is a human resources information system. It allows the management of employees as a whole and covers all HR activities (recruitment, interviews, payroll, leave, etc.) The LMS can be attached to it, or even integrated in some cases.

HRIS is therefore an information system, i.e. a set of software with different but complementary objectives. The LMS has as its sole objective the management of the training of learners (employees, partners, external sales forces, customers).

LMS or TMS?

The acronym TMS is used to mean two types of software. TMS may stand for Training Management System, focusing on the administrative, logistical and financial management of training. Or it may stand for Talent Management System, covering the career and skills management of employees.

There may be areas of overlap with the LMS but these platforms are usually complementary and can interface.

LMS or LXP?

An LXP or Learning eXperience Platform is an online training platform offering learners a personalised training experience. They rely on mechanisms of adaptive learning using data from assessments, recommendations, etc.

An LMS adapts to the company’s objectives to implement an online training strategy and bases its success on the results obtained. An LXP, on the other hand, is focused rather on an optimal user experience to obtain results.

One must realise that today LMS’s have evolved a great deal and some include features that could be attributed to LXP platforms, such as: social learning, personalised and customisable content, UGC, gamification, learning communities etc.

Learning Management System: an asset to achieve your goals!

As you will have gathered, online training and LMS platforms are a real asset in achieving your objectives. Whether they are commercial or otherwise, training enables an increase in skills and expansion of the knowledge of your learners. Thanks to online training and an LMS platform that meets your needs, there is no doubt that your programme will be a success!